32 costly gardening mistakes to avoid

Common gardening blunders to avoid

<p>David Prahl / Shutterstock</p>

David Prahl / Shutterstock

Whether you've moved to a new home with overgrown flowerbeds, or you want to give your plain backyard some character, learning how to create the garden of your dreams can seem daunting if you're new to the hobby.

However, the following lessons in what not to do should help you avoid any costly outdoor catastrophes while cultivating your plot. From killing your newly laid lawn to planting in the wrong place at the wrong time, here are the most common gardening mistakes and how to fix them.

Planting in the wrong place



All plants need daylight to thrive but, just like humans, the amount of solar rays they can tolerate differs from plant to plant. Some are sun-worshipers, while others seek out the shade.

Plants positioned in the wrong place can lead to poor growth, pests, diseases and disorders and even death. So, before you place a plant, make sure you understand its specific sunlight requirements and choose the right spot for it.

Non-precise planting

<p>iMarzi / Shutterstock</p>

iMarzi / Shutterstock

Planting too deep or too high is another easy gardening mistake to make. Planting too shallow can expose roots and cause them to dry out, while burying too far down can lead to root rot and suffocation.

For potted plants, check the holder is deep enough by first popping the plant inside while still in its original pot. It should sit comfortably, with about 2cm (0.7in) around its perimeter and be no deeper than the pot itself.

Choosing the wrong plants for the season

<p>ontphoto / Shutterstock</p>

ontphoto / Shutterstock

Rookie gardeners may not know that certain plants only thrive during certain times of the year. Summer annuals are super sensitive to frost, whereas winter blooms will bake during sunny months.

To fix this, do some research and discover hardy plants that can withstand cold weather for winter and drought-tolerant plants that prefer the hot and dry spells of summer. Check out this plant calendar or find out what vegetables to plant when.

Not being spacially aware

<p>Christine Bird / Shuuerstock</p>

Christine Bird / Shuuerstock

Packing plants together or planting too far apart are common garden fails. Crowded plants suffer from poor air circulation, competing for moisture and sunlight. Whereas planting too sparsely can leave young plants open and vulnerable to pests and cruel weather conditions.

Check the spacing recommendations on labels and seed packets and use their mature size as a spacing guide. Plant in groups with taller species at the back of beds. Then, work forward, placing the shortest shrubs at the front.

Not planning your colour scheme

<p>perlphoto / Shutterstock</p>

perlphoto / Shutterstock

There's nothing wrong with turning your garden into an explosion of colour by planting at random, but choosing a colour scheme can help your garden to look and feel more cohesive.

The British Academy of Garden Design says the colour scheme you choose for your garden can create different moods in separate areas. They recommend hot colours such as red and pink for sunny gardens. Cooler tones like blue and pale purple are more intimate and perfect for creating soft lines.

Not knowing when to bulb



Thinking you can plant bulbs at any time of the year could lead to a lack of green shoots pushing up through your newly prepared soil. Don't leave it to chance; take a look at bulb planting calendars in gardening books or online.

Bulb varieties such as tulips and daffodils bed down during autumn, ready to awaken in spring. But there are other species, such as anemone or snowdrops, that can be planted during spring and late summer that will ensure blooming colour all year round.

Planting trees incorrectly

<p>Guas / Shutterstock</p>

Guas / Shutterstock

Planting a tree is not as simple as digging a hole and popping it in. Trees are an investment and if not planted correctly, can become stunted and withered.

To plant happy trees, Level Green Landscaping advises digging a hole two to three times as wide as your tree's root ball. Unwind the roots fully before planting, because if they continue to grow in a spiral they will strangle the tree. Finally, young trees are always thirsty, so make sure they are fully hydrated.

Planting trees in the wrong place

<p>La_Mar / Shutterstock</p>

La_Mar / Shutterstock

Garden trees not only look great but create habitats for wildlife and provide both shade and privacy. But the wrong species planted in the wrong place can create a problem for you and your neighbours.

An easy gardening hack is to know your tree's growth speed, mature size (width and height) and full root capacity before you plant it. And remember to keep large specimens away from any buildings, as roots can quickly cause structural damage.

Being too ambitious

<p>Maria Evseyeva / Shutterstock</p>

Maria Evseyeva / Shutterstock

The thought of an established garden full of blooms and vegetable patches might be the dream, but unless you've got oodles of spare time, a high-maintenance garden can soon become overwhelming.

To begin, start with low-maintenance plants and shrubs. For easy colour, choose perennials like lavender, hydrangeas and alliums that should return every year with the correct pruning. Potted tomato plants and lettuce are great options for first-time gardeners, too.

Foregoing garden maintenance

<p>Dean Clarke / Shutterstock</p>

Dean Clarke / Shutterstock

Left untidy, a garden can soon lose its appeal. Regular garden maintenance will ensure your hard work shines and the extra effort will keep pests at bay, too.

Clean patios, neaten lawns and store tools away to create a clutter-free backdrop. Regular de-heading, weeding and the right amount of pruning will keep foliage prepared for any weather conditions to come.

Postponing weeding

<p>David Prahl / Shutterstock</p>

David Prahl / Shutterstock

Not weeding your garden regularly can lead to an untidy outdoor space and plants fighting to survive. Weeds will steal sunlight, water and fertiliser from your blooms and so reduce their health and longevity.

Some weeds even use other plants as a support to grow up and will literally strangle them to death. Give your shrubs a head start by removing the opposition. Remember, pulling out weeds by hand can spread their seeds and lead to more issues, so instead dig out weeds completely, including the roots. Covering them with a layer of mulch will starve them of sunlight, too, causing them to die.

To prune or not to prune?

<p>Billion Photos / Shutterstock</p>

Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Pruning involves removing dead, diseased and damaged growth, to keep plants healthy. Thinning plants also allows them to focus their efforts on growing better flowers and fruits, allows light to reach its leaves and improves air circulation, "reducing the incidence of pests and disease – without the need for sprays", Gardeners' World says.

They recommend using the right tools for the job – and looking after those tools to ensure they're rust-free – and cutting at the correct distance and angle. "Most pruning is done in winter, but this isn't universal, so check the pruning requirements of your plant before you make any cuts," they suggest.

Not having patience

<p>Singkham / Shutterstock</p>

Singkham / Shutterstock

The art of gardening is to take it slowly and enjoy the hobby. Plants take time to establish, so remember to sit back and admire the changes your garden goes through.

Alan Creedon of Garden Culture magazine puts it well: "In my allotment, my anxiety about getting it wrong or failing to grow something well is a process – a way to learn patience and have a deeper understanding of that particular plant and myself."

Not harvesting rainwater

<p>Lea Rae / Shutterstock</p>

Lea Rae / Shutterstock

Perhaps the biggest novice garden mistake to make is not owning a water harvesting system. These smart tubs collect rainwater from your gutters, enabling you to utilise it to water your garden when rain is sparse. Owning one isn't just about saving water and reducing utility bills, either.

Plants much prefer natural rainwater to tap water. "Rainwater is always the first choice; it is free from hard water elements and is the correct PH for the majority of plants," the RHS explains.

Watering at the wrong time

<p>Viktor Sergeevich / Shutterstock</p>

Viktor Sergeevich / Shutterstock

Watering your garden may seem like the simplest of tasks, but there is more to it than just turning on the hose or grabbing the watering can. Timing is key. According to the RHS, watering in the heat of the day is a bad idea, as a lot of water "is lost through evaporation from the surface of the soil".

Plants will use water more efficiently if watered during the cooler parts of the day. "Water in the mornings, if you can, as this is when the sun comes up and plants will start to use water," RHS says. "The foliage and soil surface is also likely to stay drier for longer than evening watering, discouraging slugs, snails and mildew diseases."

Watering too much, or too little

<p>connel / Shutterstock</p>

connel / Shutterstock

It's also important to give your garden just the right amount of water. Without doing your plant hydration research, roots can drown if watered too much, or dry up if not watered enough.

Rather frustratingly, there isn’t a rule of thumb when it comes to watering, since every plant has different needs. “For example, a container plant in hot sunny weather may need watering daily, whereas a mature shrub might only need a drink in extreme drought,” the RHS says. Generally speaking, plants will need watering more frequently during prolonged dry spells.

Forgetting feathered friends

<p>Al More / Shutterstock</p>

Al More / Shutterstock

Sadly, rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns – caused by climate change  "affect birds' ability to find food and reproduce, which over time impacts local populations, and ultimately continent-wide populations, too", Audubon explains.

So, it's vital to create outdoor havens for birds, so they can flourish. Inviting birds into your garden, by providing them with shelter, clean water and food, will help cull plant-munching insects, encourage a rich ecoystem for better plant diversity and do wonders for your well-being.

Not considering wildlife

<p>JurateBuiviene / Shutterstock</p>

JurateBuiviene / Shutterstock

Without pollinators, your garden won't flourish. "Butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies all need sources of nectar and pollen to thrive," the Wildlife Trust explains. "As they travel from flower to flower, they also pollinate them, enabling them to set seed or bear fruit."

Nectar-rich plants include heather, marigolds, lavender and honeysuckle. Easy access, a variety of colourful flowers and lots of places to hide will entice honey-making heroes and other important pollinators to enjoy your garden. You could even consider installing a bug hotel, to encourage essential creepy crawlies.

Not controlling pests

<p>Artush / Shutterstock</p>

Artush / Shutterstock

A garden without insects simply wouldn't survive. However, ignoring common garden pests will soon destroy your efforts. Tightly packed plants will offer heat and cover from predators, so can be a haven for leaf-loving insects.

Instead, ensure plants are spaced out evenly. Water can dislodge many tiny bugs, but take a bucket around with you while watering to pick off bigger bugs, such as snails. Look out for organic insecticides and follow the label guidelines carefully.

Mowing mistakes

<p>Mabeline72 / Shutterstock</p>

Mabeline72 / Shutterstock

Mowing your lawn means walking up and down with the machine and job done, right? Wrong! There are lots of mistakes that will soon leave your lawn looking lacklustre.

According to Lawnmowers Direct, common lawn blunders include cutting the grass too short, cutting with dull blades, failing to clean your mower and cutting grass when it's wet. Read their in-depth guide to avoid a dead or patchy lawn.

Not knowing your lawn seed

<p>Dean Clarke / Shutterstock</p>

Dean Clarke / Shutterstock

We'd all love a Wimbledon-worthy lawn that's lush green and weed-free all year round but even the world's most famous tennis court needs annual attention. Knowing what seeds to use on your lawn will greatly benefit its success.

The Lawn Association has a guide to different lawn types and the native grasses – such as fescues, bentgrass and dwarf ryegrass that are most common in the UK.

Thinking artificial grass is easy

<p>red mango / Shutterstock</p>

red mango / Shutterstock

A low-maintenance garden will help newbies get to grips with their green fingers and an artificial lawn can create an easy patch of paradise all year round. However, a mistake learner gardeners make is thinking no maintenance is required for artificial grass.

Although fake grass means no mowing or watering, make sure cleaning is still on the to-do list, especially if you have pets. Remember, most artificial grass is formed from plastic, so be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly and recyclable variety.

Neglecting potted plants



Potted plants are a gardener-in-the-know's secret weapon. Popping little bursts of colour on patios, around dining terraces and even among flower beds can add texture and colour that's easily changeable.

However, being contained in small spaces can leave potted plants running short of water, nutrients and space to grow. Keep them hydrated, fertilised and re-pot when the roots begin to creep out of the bottom drainage hole.

Forgetting a potting table

<p>Garden Trading</p>

Garden Trading

Not having a dedicated area to perform practical gardening tasks can hinder your chances of successful cultivation – not to mention create a whole lot of mess. Potting tables are ideal for conditioning soil, sowing seeds, cleaning tools and, well, potting plants!

A potting table can be as simple as an upcycled garden table or old wooden pallet, or as fancy as a custom-built work bench, complete with drawers for different soils and tools.

Not having the right equipment

<p>AMES Tools</p>

AMES Tools

A wise person once said, "a man is only as good as his tools" and the line has been used many times, for good reason. Being ill-equipped for the challenge can soon turn gardening into a frustrating chore.

Equally, it's easy to go overboard when starting out. Stick to quality gardening essentials and practical storage solutions to keep tools in top condition, then watch your garden projects flourish.

Not knowing your soil

<p>Verve brought to you by B&Q</p>

Verve brought to you by B&Q

To the untrained eye, all soil looks the same – but there are, in fact, a few different types. The RHS states that there are generally five types with different PH levels: clay, silt, sandy, peaty and chalky soils.

The type of soil you have will make a difference when it comes to how well plants will thrive in your garden. For example, plants struggle in clay soil, due to its density, which means their roots have to work very hard to establish themselves. You can identify soil type by touch and consistency or, for more accuracy, purchase testing kits from garden centres or online.

Using too much mulch

<p>Maria Sbytova / Shutterstock</p>

Maria Sbytova / Shutterstock

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) describes mulch as "loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of soil". There are endless benefits to using mulch; it helps soil retain moisture, reduces watering, suppresses weeds and deters pests.

However, too much can smother plants and lead to mould growth and disease. So, it's important not to overdo it. Mulch should be placed on soil after weeding, around an inch away from plants and applied in layers of between 5cm (2in) and 7.5cm (3in) thick.

Choosing invasive plants

<p>Sireli / Shutterstock</p>

Sireli / Shutterstock

Fast-growing plants like English ivy, bamboo and rhododendron can look very pretty but be aware that these quick spreaders can soon take over a space and even cause serious damage to structural buildings, walls and fences.

Take a look at our list of invasive plants and how to stop thm from spreading.

Causing pets harm

<p>alexei_tm / Shutterstock</p>

alexei_tm / Shutterstock

As part of the family, pets enjoy our outdoor spaces arguably even more than we do. But, planting certain species of plants and shrubs can be toxic to our furry friends.

The ASPCA has a guide to toxic plants and states that azaleas (AKA rhododendrons), hydrangeas, tulips and daffodils can all cause harm if ingested by cats or dogs, so plant well away from temptation.

Thinking gardens are just for summer



It's undeniable that our gardens look their best and brightest during summer, but don't forget to make the most of your outdoor space all year round.

There are plenty of tasks to be done during each season, from planning your garden layout and planting schedule in late winter to weeding beds in spring and clearing out spent annuals in autumn, your garden needs love even when the sun isn't shining.

Ignoring your garden during winter

<p>Paul Maguire / Shutterstock</p>

Paul Maguire / Shutterstock

Leaving your garden to freeze during cold months can be damaging to your outside space. In fact, ignoring your garden during winter might mean that come spring, your backyard is left looking a little worse for wear.

This winter garden checklist from Gardener's World is sure to help you stay on track. From moving potted plants to a sheltered spot to hard pruning overgrown shrubs and hedges while they lay dormant, there are plenty of jobs to be done.

Giving up too soon

<p>Maria Evseyeva / Shutterstock</p>

Maria Evseyeva / Shutterstock

It goes without saying that gardening is a skill – and like all skills, it takes time to master the art. Even with all the right planning and preparation, a freak storm could wipe out all of your hard work. This is why perseverance is key.

"Give yourself time to learn the best practices to follow, study up on your favourite plants and network with other gardeners to learn about crops and varieties that grow well in your area," suggests GrowVeg. "The garden is a great teacher. In a few seasons, you’ll go from being a newbie to an old hand."